Second Winds: How Fast Should We Run?

By Colleen Yorke
Navigational Art and Directions By Colleen Yorke, © 2017.

"Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second." - William James

In the Navajo language, the word second, as in time, translates to "the one that moves fast". Most runners are joggers. They run the same steady, moderate pace. Even some highly competitive runners jog most of the time. Easy running improves stamina and fitness. Faster running is more taxing, but if it is done in small doses, it helps to break out of the jogging rut - especially when faster running is layered on top of a high volume of easy running. 

Some DTLA Runners, 2014.
There are different types of fast running: The first level is referred to as tempo pace. This pace is a slight gear up from jogging pace, we push a little, but remain comfortable. After that, we hit the threshold pace, it is the fastest pace we can go at which we maintain fully in control of our breathing anywhere from thirty to sixty minutes. Faster still gets us to VO2 max pace. This corresponds to the fastest speed interval we can sustain for six to ten minutes straight to exhaustion. The next gear has no conventional name other than speed. It incorporates a range of speeds faster than the VO2 Max pace and slower than a full sprint between 30 to 80 seconds in duration. Finally, the fastest speed we can sustain for no more than 20 seconds is a full sprint. In the DTLA Running Group we have a fun tradition "to sprint like a wind" that last block of our nightly run routes. In the end, we are definitely spent, but we also feel fabulous.

Monthly Half-Marathon, 2014
How fast should we run? There are no magic numbers for our threshold workouts and VO2 max intervals. Pacing calculators such as the one by GregMcMillian can be helpful, but in the end it is all about practice and experience. Alternating our runs, and building in a variation of running requirements (hills, soft paths, narrow alleys) can shake up our monotonous pacing. And, every second of faster running makes a difference.

Last night I jogged and paced for 13.8 miles, part of my monthly tradition of starting and closing with a half-marathon of running every month. Some of you have asked me to map out the route on Runkeeper. The route is varied in hills, both uphill and downhill, soft sand, narrow sidewalks, bridges and three parks. It is great for anyone looking to train for a race, to improve stamina or to just explore the City of Los Angeles in all its peculiarity. I am always looking for new routes to run. If you have a favorite run, please do share!
your threshold workouts, your VO2 max intervals, and so forth.